Saudi Arabia suspended all Umrah pilgrimages on Wednesday as it reported its second case of new coronavirus. Last week, the Kingdom prohibited foreign pilgrims from visiting the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. The ban now applies to Saudi nationals and expatriates, the interior ministry said. The goal is to “limit the spread of the coronavirus and prevent its access to the Two Holy Mosques, which are witnessing a permanent and intense crowd, which makes the issue of securing these crowds of the utmost importance”, said one spokesperson.
Saudis and expats can still go to Mecca and Medina to pray if they don’t go for Umrah, said Hajj Abdulfattah Mashat deputy minister. “Mecca is still open to visitors from all over the Kingdom, the decision only suspends Umrah’s activities,” he told Al Arabiya TV. Saudi Arabia reported on Wednesday its second case of coronavirus, a companion of the first, which crossed the Bahraini causeway without revealing that it had traveled to Iran, the center of the epidemic in the region. Authorities quarantined 70 people who had been in contact with the patient, and 51 of them were tested negative for the virus, the health ministry said. There are now more than 3,150 cases in the Middle East, almost all in Iran or linked to Iran, which has 2,922 confirmed cases and 92 deaths.
Authorities canceled Friday prayers in all provincial capitals and barred officials from traveling abroad. However, experts continue to fear that Iran is not transparent about the severity of its impact. “The spread of the virus in almost all Iranian provinces leaves little doubt that the authorities are struggling to contain the epidemic,” said Torbjorn Soltvedt, analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, consultant at Verisk Maplecroft. “After a slow and politicized response to the epidemic, the government is now facing a race against time to prevent a public health emergency from turning into an economic crisis.” Worldwide, more than 94,000 people have contracted the virus, killing more than 3,200 people. “People are afraid and are uncertain. Fear is a natural human response to any threat, “said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization.” But as we get more data, we understand this virus and the disease it causes. ” Insurers in Saudi Arabia reassured customers that they were covered if they contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The disease is a respiratory disease and all health policies cover testing and treatment, including medical examination, diagnosis and medication, said Yasser Al-Marek, spokesperson for the Council for Cooperative Health Insurance. According to a new survey, almost a third of employers in the Kingdom intend to put their staff at home if the viral threat increases. However, most “work at home” plans are limited to HR and administrative staff, according to the survey of the job portal GulfTalent.